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The power to grant executive clemency for offenses violating state law, including both pardons and commutations, is held in Massachusetts by the governor, with the advice and consent of the Massachusetts Governor’s Council. The governor’s power to pardon is rooted in the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in Part 2, Chapter II, Section I, Article VIII, as inserted by Article of Amendment LXXIII.

Acting as the Advisory Board of Pardons, the Massachusetts Parole Board reviews all petitions for executive clemency submitted to the governor for consideration and submits a recommendation about each case. The Governor’s Executive Clemency Guidelines state “the law provides the Parole Board, acting as the Advisory Board of Pardons, a significant role in advising the Governor with respect to deciding petitions for executive clemency. The Parole Board has issued regulations governing certain aspects of how it functions in its capacity as the Advisory Board of Pardons” in 120 CMR  900.00 . The Massachusetts Parole Board’s “Executive Clemency Overview” provides more information and access to pardon petitions and commutation petitions.

The United States Department of Justice’s “Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Executive Clemency” poses the question of whether or not the President of the United States has the authority to grant clemency for a state conviction. “The President’s authority to grant clemency is limited to federal offenses and offenses prosecuted by the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia in the name of the United States in the D.C. Superior Court.  An offense that violates a state law is not an offense against the United States.” The Congressional Research Service issued a “Legal Sidebar” report on the scope of the President’s authority to pardon on August 28, 2017. “This Sidebar provides a general overview of the [President’s] pardon power and briefly addresses a few frequently asked legal questions concerning its scope and application.”

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